Everyone seems to be watching or have watched ‘The Crown’ on Netflix – and no wonder. Apart from its honesty about the Duke of Edinburgh’s legendary philandering, the whole cast put up a mesmerising performance, and the scripts are near faultless. And of course, as we relive the Abdication Crisis, and the Princess Margaret Marriage Crisis, all the old issues about our Sovereign being both Head of State and Head of Church are played out again. The drama traces the gradual modernisation of our monarchy through the 20th Century, aligning itself painfully to the evolving morality of our times, and time after time, it is the reactionary old Church of England that is seen to slow the process down to a snail’s pace. The irony of those two old crises when viewed in the light of subsequent Royal developments, notably the adulterous behaviour of both Charles and Diana and the willingness nowadays to accept divorced remarriage in the Royal family, is almost painful to contemplate. I wonder just how many people watching the programme are brought to consider whether in this day and age, it makes any sense at all to have an established church. I remember as a kid being told that the longest word in the English language was ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’. I didn’t know then what it means, and I am today less than sure that its double negative means anything other than ‘establishmentarianism’ – but I am certain that the sooner we disestablish the Anglican Church the better.
Clearly, life would be made a lot easier for the Royal Family’s sex life if we were to do so. And we would be spared the requirement to listen to the Church’s blinkered and antiquated views on every subject, expressed in the House of Lords and all over the Media, delivered by Archbishops who all seem to be cut from the same effete Establishment cloth. Reasons enough in themselves I would have thought. But not the fundamental one. Whatever the current state of Christianity in Britain today, one thing is certain: the Church of England is on its way out. ‘C of E’ may still be the default on Census Forms, but congregations are pitiful except when Songs of Praise is in town, and even among those who do still attend church services, the reasons are usually as much social and aesthetic as spiritual. We have an established church because in the 16th Century, everybody was a Christian of some sort, and those in power needed to impose an orthodoxy over Catholic and Protestant dissidence alike. Today, there are as many beliefs as there are individuals and we celebrate our pluralism as evidence of tolerant Western values. So why do we go on pretending that we still live in the 16th Century? Let’s have pity on those poor old Royals. Living in wealth and luxury as they do with no requirement to earn a living like the rest of us, they can hardly be blamed if they seek amusement in adultery. Why force them to add religious deceit to their sins? Free them up to pursue their hearts’ desires like the rest of us and then we might see them for what they really are – a family firm of freeloaders who should have been put out to grass years ago.